Waking up 2020

Waking up 2020

I grew up in the Bronx in the 60’s and 70’s, when the Bronx was burning and neighborhoods were changing. I grew up around racism. It was just there. It was in the conversations, in the slurs that were used, on the television, in the air that we breathed, in the water we drank…a part of society in which I lived, in which we all lived. As a little girl, I knew something was off and made a conscious decision to not follow in that path. I was not going to be a racist. I was careful to not generalize about any group of people. What I did not realize is that when racism is in the air you breathe, in the society you live in, in the conversations of your neighbors, it becomes a part of you and lives in you unconsciously, until you shine a light on it, until you wake up. I discovered this truth in 2017, when I was taking a course at the Nalanda Institute. One of the classes was on “Unconscious Bias”. The visiting professor for this class was an African-American Buddhist who shared with us her own unconscious bias towards black men. I was stunned. It never occurred to me that black people could have a bias towards other black people, but, society had also conditioned them. This professor guided us through an exercise that helped us examine our own unconscious biases. The tenet of the exercise is that you cannot heal what you are not aware of. We first have to acknowledge what is in us. Before any outer change can occur, we must go inward. This was one of the most powerful classes I had ever attended. We were given images of many different people. And then we were guided to examine what our response was to these people. As we looked at a person of color, an obese woman or an elderly man in a wheelchair, we asked ourselves what was happening within us? Are our muscles tense or relaxed? Has our breathing become shallow? What are we thinking? What are our preconceived notions? What are our knee-jerk reactions? We noticed what was happening in our bodies and in our minds. We breathed, we paused, and during that pause, we were able to shine the light on beliefs hidden in tiny crevices and choose differently. We discovered in this class, that many of us were conditioned to think the same way about various groups of people. If that is true, it is probably true for many police officers. Wouldn’t it be powerful if every police officer in this country were required to go through a program about unconscious biases and become more mindful as a result. What if they learned to pause, instead of react? How many people would be saved? What if all corporations and schools and towns and cities looked at the policies that drive them and examined it for racist ideas that laced through them? What if? 

I was sickened at the last debate to hear that the federal racial sensitivity training was being eliminated. The justification for ending it was that it is anti-American. For any elimination of racism, we must take inventory, as individuals, as schools, as corporations, as towns and villages, and certainly as a country. We cannot get better if we do not see where our problem lies. This issue has deep roots and is present every where we look. We have much to learn. Avoidance is not a political strategy. Denial is not a political strategy. We need positive change. We could all learn about positive change from Twelve Step Programs. Step Four tells us to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. This step is crucial for any change to occur for the recovering person. Our country has hit rock bottom. America needs recovery. And it starts with each one of us. Where do I still have a blind spot where racism is concerned? Part of my own inventory was recognizing what I do not know. So, I have plunged into learning more this year, after being horrified about the killing of George Floyd. A book I highly recommend is “How to be an Anti-Racist” by Ibram X. Kendi. Mr. Kendi spoke about his own history of racist ideas, and his present anti-racist ideas. It is eye-opening and not an easy read, but it is important. America needs to take stock. It is not anti-American to look at our shortcomings. It is necessary. When I take my own inventory about ways I have been conditioned, I don’t hate myself for that conditioning. I have compassion, and I want to do better. And the good news is that I can do better. Similarly, I don’t hate our country for its conditioning, but I sure as shit (that’s my Bronx coming out) want our country to do better, to choose differently. Our power is in our choices. We have such an important choice next week! Don’t forfeit your power. VOTE!

I teach mindfulness and self-compassion and yes, this is a different blog post than most of my musings. Yet, this is all about mindfulness! When we engage in spiritual practices and we cultivate mindfulness and compassion, we come away with the knowing that we are all one, and when we KNOW that, activism follows. We will no longer walk over the homeless person and not want to help. We will not see George Floyd killed and not want to be part of the call for justice. It will no longer be happening to “them”. It is happening, and we are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

With love, Jeanette

The Pandemic Pause

I have not written since January 2nd, 2020 at which time I was reflecting on the future, setting intentions and expressing wishes. Looking back at that post, my wishes for this new decade was for us to embrace our humanity, choose happiness, and to cultivate our compassion. Little did I know 2 days into 2020 what was ahead of us. Back in January, I was busy making plans: our annual vacation in March, planning when to see a play with my daughter Katie, mapping out events on the calendar and planning my workshops . The interesting thing about us humans is that we tend to have faith in our futures. We plan stuff and believe our lives will go as planned, for the most part. This year that did not happen. COVID-19 had other plans. There was no vacation in Florida in March, no Jagged Little Pill on Broadway in April, workshops were cancelled, no high school graduation for my nephew in June, and on and on.

Instead of boarding a plane for Florida in March, we headed to the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts where we have a family home to stay. We planned on getting away for a week or so; instead, we stayed almost 3 months quarantining there. The house we were residing in is on top of a mountain on 9 acres and it is very isolating. This was both the good news and the bad news. For almost 3 months, we saw NO ONE we knew. Towards the end of our stay, on top of that majestic mountain, I sat on the deck (see picture below) and pondered the time we spent there riding the wave of this pandemic. I was so grateful for the safe haven that we had to run away to. I deeply missed my people, my grown children, my mom, my sisters, and my friends. I was grieving for what had been lost, the lives, the jobs, the businesses, but mostly the lives. I was and still am grateful for what had been gained…family time, self-reflection time, the decrease of carbon dioxide emissions, recovery time for water and air, our pets having us home, our children having us around, and the realization of what is important. I was deep in the throes of self care, taking virtual yoga classes from around the world, conducting drop-in meditation classes for others, journaling, walking in nature. I was blessed and depressed all at once.

This year has had quite an impact on me. I felt outraged A LOT this year. I was awakened to the widespread inequities that COVID-19 exposed which are egregious. I watched with the rest of the country the killing of George Floyd and I felt both outraged and heartbroken. I watched the politicizing of wearing a mask and I felt disgust. I watched the protection of the nursing home industry and the failure to protect the elderly in the care of that industry and I was horrified. And let’s not even discuss the conspiracy theories, PLEASE! I was percolating with outrage. And this challenged my usual way of being, which is to show up with acceptance of others and choosing happiness for myself. Instead, I was judging, and felt justified, and once I traveled down that self-righteous rabbit hole I ended up feeling disheartened and lost. Was this Pandemic waking me up or placing me in a prison?

I know that my spiritual practices help me align to my inner serenity but I felt at a loss in the ability to maintain that serenity when injustice was all around me. If we are all ONE, which is what I believe, how can I choose happiness while others suffer? I want to be of service and if I am not aligned, I cannot be of service. And yet, I cannot reach alignment until I deal with the outrage, the anger, and the sadness I feel. Ahh, it all goes back to being with our emotions, feeling what we feel. I had a decision to make, a path to choose. I KNEW what I needed to do. I needed to create space, the pause button I teach others as a life coach. I needed to create the Pandemic Pause. It is where our power is, when we acknowledge and validate how we feel and get still enough to be in touch with our truth and then take inspired action. So, I continued the dance of my own inner work, the work with my emotions and thoughts, and my outer work, advocacy for those less fortunate than me: the elderly, people of color, and those disadvantaged in any way. The realization when we sit with our emotions is that they are NEVER wrong. What if I was not outraged? I have decided that in these remaining weeks of 2020 and especially leading to November 3, I will share my journey. And, I want to hear yours! I do not want to look back at this time in history and ask myself “What did you do?” and not be able to answer satisfactorily. I am working on my Pandemic Pause daily and from that space, taking the next right action. I want this year to be what I wished for January 2nd…. a year of embracing our common humanity, choosing happiness and cultivating our compassion.

I would love to hear what has awakened you this year, what has shifted for you, and what do you wish for?

Happy New Decade!

When I contemplate the last decade, the decade of my 50s, I am scanning the roles that I played: mom, wife, Girl Scout leader, life coach, legal nurse consultant, teacher and student, among others. I saw my oldest son get married and then a daughter and another son move in with their favorite people. I watched my youngest child grow into a beautiful young lady. I said good-bye to my father, three aunts, an uncle, two cousins, a friend, a neighbor and a beloved brother-in-law and most recently, my dog Maggie. Yes, amidst the flow of life and learning, there were great losses. And there was a great push to be present for all of it, the good and the bad.


This past decade has been a journey of self love, something which does not come naturally to me. I still say “yes” to too many requests which causes my schedule to be overwhelming and me to experience unnecessary stress. I still do not easily discern the difference between the “yes” that comes from the beautiful yearning to serve others or the “yes” that beckons from the remnants of unworthiness that were planted early in life, that demands “yes” in order to stay lovable. I am slowly learning that “no” is a complete sentence and that justification is not needed when I am making myself a priority.

I have a daily practice of setting intentions. I mostly set the intention of kindness, of not taking things personally, of being true to my word, of relating to others from my heart instead of my head. Setting intentions are very different from setting goals. There isn’t a tangible achievement at the end of the day, like checking something off a to-do list. It is the sense of satisfaction that I showed up for life a certain way. Sometimes, my intentions are realized and sometimes they aren’t. Still, they serve as my internal navigation system, my GPS. They help me get back on track. I’m pondering my intentions for the decade in front of us. And then I realize that intentions are better set one day at a time, if not one hour at a time. Intentions are very present-moment focused. I can set goals for the decade and I have. I plan to travel. I am going to read A LOT. I will practice mindfulness and yoga and compassion. I am going to become a vegetarian, maybe. I will publish a book, oh yes, I will. These are my goals. I can see them manifesting. My intentions come from a different place. They will be determined daily, each morning as part of a prayer, a beckoning from some deep place to live my best life in this God-gifted day.

Putting aside intentions and goals, I have many wishes for you and me. For all of us, the new decade brings endless possibilities, even when reality looks grim. Just think, there will be three chances for a new President in this decade: 2020, 2024, 2028. That is something to celebrate! My wish for all of us is to CHOOSE happiness; yes, it is a choice. The exception is when you have an addiction or a mental illness that prevents you from accessing that choice. If that is the case, my wish for you is the courage to ask for help. You are worthy. There is no shame in your game. We all need help at some point. We are human and it is brave to embrace our humanity. I wish for a world that is more compassionate, that we do not close our eyes to suffering, that when we see others suffer, a deep longing stirs in us to end the suffering and take action. Let us all be filled with the wisdom and grace to make the world a better place. Happy New Year! Happy New Decade!

Much love, Jeanette

Tapping into INNER WISDOM

I have been doing a lot of wondering lately….wondering if I am doing the right thing as a parent, wondering about the future direction of my life’s work, wondering if more humans will awaken to the ways we are destroying our planet, wondering if I will ever be a grandma, wondering when we will stop mass shootings, wondering where I will be in five years, and on and on.

Then I realize that all this preoccupation is not how I want to spend my days. It is not living in the present moment. Nevertheless, the questions keep popping into my head. So, I notice them and sometimes I pull out my journal and jot down my stream of consciousness. Sometimes, I share my ruminations with a safe person, a trusted friend. At other times, I just notice the thoughts and let them drift away like a cloud in the sky. Some of the questions will be answered as life unfolds. Some questions are mere musings. Some of the questions DEMAND answers.

Here is the quandary…from what place do you want to receive the answers? From a place of fear and dread or from a place of wisdom and love? I prefer the latter.

In order for me to tap into wisdom, I get still. I do my inner work. I turn to my contemplative practices. I meditate. I listen. I pray. I get close to nature. I journal. I read. I go for a walk. I focus on my breathing. I practice self-compassion. I stay humble, teachable, most of the time. I am a work in progress, as we all are! I know that if I do my inner work, the answers will come. I know this much….that I have life situations that do not define me. You have life situations that do not define you, either. You are not your disease, your bank account, your lack of employment, your negative conditioned thoughts. You are a beautiful essence that is so much greater than your life situations, always. I am also THAT which you are. And how do we transcend our life situations and get aligned with our true essence? Being present. Being Here, NOW. And when we can do that, together, we can shine our light for all those who feel they are nothing more than their life situations….those who are stuck in their pain, who do not have access to strategies for getting unstuck. My favorite thing in life is to teach others tools to rise above their life situations that are causing them pain, to pass on to others what has been so graciously taught to me.

What is your favorite tool to get yourself unstuck? Do you have a repertoire of contemplative practices which help you get aligned to your true nature? Comment below:


Tears quietly dropped from beneath my glasses and onto my cheeks as we crossed the bridge making our way to his funeral. What is this life all about? I could not imagine our family without him, the person who was the constant, the person that I could rely upon. I could count on Brendan always for compassion, a good laugh, a great story. I knew he would SEE me and HEAR me. He had no where to go. He had been confined to a wheelchair for many years. He had time, all the time in the world to listen and to connect, while we were running around with our busy lives. I wish I had sat with him more. At every family gathering I would spend some of my time sitting with my beloved brother-in-law sharing stories, But that won’t happen anymore. His chair can never be filled by another.

I wondered about writings of his that may be found on his computer that I have not yet seen, writings that would give me more of him, now that he was gone. Now that I could not listen to his stories with my own ears, I wanted to read them with my own eyes. Funny, we are all here temporarily, and we all know that, but mostly, we pretend it’s not so. We are taught to savor the moments, but, we are too busy. Yet, when someone we love dearly dies, the reality of the impermanence is a lived experience, not just some inspirational quote to tattoo on our arm. The loss is felt in our bones and we ache. We want to hold onto our loved one that is no longer physically here with us. We look at pictures. We reminisce. We tell stories. We grasp for something. We wonder “what is life all about?”

Brendan was a storyteller. He would start off telling you a story with something like “Get a load of this…” and he would lean forward and wet his lips and before he even said the first word, anticipation was stirred. He would look around to see if anyone else was listening as if what he was going to tell me should not be heard by anyone else. I would position myself to listen (Brendan never told a story quickly) and I would hang on to every word. I remember political talks we had forty years ago prior to the first time I voted. I am a Democrat partly because of Brendan. I am a writer partly because of Brendan. He encouraged stories to be written. He was a person who, if you spent any amount of time with, you were changed by. He reveled in listening to stories, as well. He never spoke about anyone badly. And whenever you would be complaining to him about someone or something, he would say “You’ve gotta be shitting me!” It was his brand of acknowledging and validating. And I loved it.

It’s three days after his funeral. I am back to work but having difficulty focusing. I am still wondering as one does “What is this life all about?” This I know for sure:  Brendan will live on in our hearts and minds. He will live on especially in his children and grandchildren. I know I want to be a better person because of him. As the priest noted at his funeral, based on the amount of people who showed up and the sentiments they expressed, Brendan was a very rich man. I could not agree more!

I am remembering our last couple of visits. There is something to be said about hospice. It makes you wake up to the reality of life, the impermanence of it all. You take the time to visit. You don’t put it off till next time. The visit I had in December was one I never want to forget. I walked into his room where he was in bed. Brendan’s eyes were closed. I quietly said his name and he opened his eyes and took my face in both his hands. He told me that he was just thinking about me and how much love I brought to his life and how he felt so loved by my four children. I told him how loved I felt by him. I told him how much we all adored him. It was quite a moment with tears filling our eyes. We knew these were words that were yearning to be said and heard. Ohhhhh, that is what it is all about…..love and appreciation. That is what it is all about! 

Until, we meet again, dear brother!

Brendan Loonam…teacher, writer, son, father, grandpa, husband, brother, brother-in-law, son-in-law, uncle, friend, lover of poetry and music, Irishman, Bronx boy, playwright and producer of “Gone Away with a Sailor”, and a gem of a human being.

Turning a New Leaf….

What do you desire to create in 2019?

I usually get pensive at the end of the year. This year is no exception. I have been pondering my life and want to expand my meditation practice from the cushion into the rest of my day more intentionally….REALLY noticing what is going on inside me and around me. Being aware of who I really am and who you really are, at our innermost core. Accepting all that is and at the same time reaching for better. Letting the moments sink in. Savoring more than chocolate. Relishing sunsets and smiles, moments of grace, strangers that hold doors, deer that show up in my backyard, the first sip of coffee, invitations. Taking it all in, just like a deep breath, and letting it all go as satisfying as the long release of an exhale, not getting attached to any one outcome. Allowing and making space for all the emotions that visit during the day, my internal weather map…trusting that stormy, intense emotions have their purpose, just like the rain on parched grass. It all shows up for a reason. Sometimes it is just to inform us and sometimes it prompts us to question. What is missing in our life? What is the unmet need? Where are we out of alignment? Finding that anchor spot, that grounding cord in the midst of the tornados keeping us from reactivity, from regret. Remembering to breathe, to connect, and especially recalling that we are all ONE. Pausing. Noticing who is excluded from the rooms I am in? What is the part I play? How can I do better? Nothing is broken, but everything is influenced and co-created in every moment. Each moment is a chance for renewal, to reach for improvement, to act and speak from a place of love. My most pressing aspiration for the New Year is to actualize these concepts each and every day that I am blessed with another chance to do so, and when I fail, to love myself anyway. What are you reaching for as you enter 2019? I would love to hear from you.

Here are some wishes for the New Year for myself, for you, for All Beings.

May I pause and notice, accept and savor, love and flourish.

May you pause and notice, accept and savor, love and flourish.

May all beings pause and notice, accept and savor, love and flourish.


Solving Hunger One Garden at a Time

Solving Hunger One Garden at a Time

This blog was started in 2012 to share my thoughts about well-being/wellness. Although I have never tackled the issue of hunger, I think we can all agree that well-being cannot be achieved if hunger or food insecurity is an issue. My daughter Sarah was introduced to the concept of food insecurity when she was in 4th grade by PJ Collins, the founder of 10,000 PB&Js. It made an impact but took some time to sink in as you will read below. As a girl scout cadette, Sarah decided to tackle the problem of food insecurity as part of a Silver award project. She is now 13 years old and has worked on this project for the last 18 months. I have invited Sarah to be my guest blogger this month. The purpose of sharing her story is to educate and inspire others to solve hunger one garden at a time!

woman carrying basket of fruits and vegetables

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Girl Scout Silver Award Project
My name is Sarah Sandor, I live in a small town in Westchester County, New York called Pleasantville. When I was in the 4th grade a man named PJ Collins came in to talk to my class about homelessness in New York City. At that time I really didn’t understand what was going on in the world with hunger and poverty. He had us make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the homeless. We put them in paper bags and he collected them. After that I told my mom what we did that day and she went to our Girl Scout troop and presented the idea to volunteer on Sunday nights. During the past couple of years, our troop would volunteer with 10,000 PB&Js once in a while but I really didn’t understand how this affected us. I enjoyed volunteering anyway. It was fun!


Two years ago, my mom told me about one of my friends who was volunteering in a food garden in my town. I thought this was strange; my mom always bought our vegetables at the local farmers market and a grocery store so I really didn’t know about local gardens. She insisted I volunteer with my friend and that started my work at the Pleasantville Community garden.


When I first met David Juros, he told me about how his son learned all about hunger in Westchester and started a garden in order to donate to Westchester food pantry (Hillside Food Outreach). I started my work for him helping with harvesting and planting.

David Juros came to Girl Scout events and my best friend and I really felt passionate about the work he does. We learned how to seed in the winter to get plants ready for spring.

Over time, I started realizing how much hunger is present in our otherwise affluent community and that it is swept under the rug and not talked about. My partner and I decided to focus our Girl Scout Silver Award project on spreading the word about hunger in our area and volunteering our time to help get fresh food to people who need it. Along the way, I got to connect with people that came to know firsthand about hunger and poverty and how one simple garden can impact the lives of families all over Westchester and how gardens with fresh foods and vegetables are in such need. I loved meeting with fantastic women like Susan Rubin who works at the Mt. Kisco Elementary School where 75% of the school is eligible for free lunch, and Jaime Posa who was my advisor.

I enjoyed working with great people like PJ Collins and David Juros who changed my life for the better. I volunteered at the Pleasantville Community Garden, and we hosted a yoga event for HIllside Food Outreach, and we did many presentations.

Yoga for hunger cropped-33

I learned how people take things for granted every day and how much families struggle and we don’t know about it. One in five people in Westchester experience food insecurity. I am so happy I was able to dedicate 50 hours to this important cause. And I’m so happy that I can pass on the journey I went on to other girls like me. There are many organizations that need volunteers and donations. The links are below. I also want to encourage other school systems and communities to build their own gardens to solve the hunger problem in Westchester. Let’s GROW food!




10,000 PB&Js

New York, NY
1,243 Volunteers

10,000 PB&Js is a volunteer led organization dedicated to offering compassion to homeless men and women in NYC. We meet each week in White Plains & the lower east side to make…

Next Meetup

White Plains Chapter: Food Prep

Sunday, Sep 16, 2018, 5:00 PM
11 Attending

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Creating your day as if it were your last.

Creating your day as if it were your last.

8/3/18--I had surgery three days ago. Thankfully, it was nothing serious. Nevertheless, it had me thinking about my mortality. As a nurse, I have seen a lot of death. I have lost several friends, my father, aunts and uncles and cousins. I know I am not alone.

Death is part of life and yet, we don’t talk about it. It is viewed as morbid to discuss. We go around in denial of our impermanence. Today is a gift and tomorrow is not promised.

We procrastinate because of our lack of awareness of our own mortality. We fail to take the vacation that we have dreamt about. We haven’t called our childhood friend who keeps coming into our mind. One day, we will get around to making those scrapbooks or writing that book, maybe.

I know this, because I am talking about myself. I bought the scrapbooks about 4 years ago and they are still on the shelf. I have not called my childhood friend that I have been meaning to for months. I have not gone on the vacation that I have dreamt about. I AM writing the book; well, the introduction is done.

8 a.m.  This morning, I meditated. Birds were chirping. The grass was wet from rain. Mother Nature is always in flux. So am I. After my meditation, I decided to journal about what my plans would be today if it were my last day. If this were to be my last day,  I doubt I  I could make it to the far-off places I hope to travel to someday. But I could make some phone calls and connect to those I love.  Would I worry about my “things”? Would I worry that I had not reached some lofty career goals? Nah. I wonder if I had served others well. Have I impacted the world in a positive or a negative way? These are the thoughts that cross my mind. What if these questions would motivate each and every day I have left?

I launched some intentions to live today as if it were my one and only. I made a bucket list for the day, written below. I didn’t have time for perfection. Nothing fancy…just my stream of consciousness. This is what flowed out:

24 hour bucket list

What if every day we started out with gratitude for this precious gift of another twenty-four hours and considered the possibility that it may be our last? How would our life change with this new awareness and attitude? I set about my day with these things in mind.

8 p.m.  My day was one of connection. I let people know I love them. I ate slower than usual. I worked. I made several mental notes of appreciation throughout the day. It was not perfect. I was not perfect, but I do not need to be. I strive to be my best self. I was honest. I was affectionate. I was allowing. I prayed. I meditated and I journaled my message to leave behind. My message contains some thoughts, nothing original, just thoughts that have become my truth.  My teachers have been Wayne Dyer, Neale Donald Walsh, Marianne Williamson, Abraham Hicks, Brene Brown, Deepak Chopra among others. You may notice their messages in my love note to the world:

Dear Humans (Children),

  1. Don’t take yourself so seriously! Develop a sense of humor that will sustain you during the challenging times. 
  2. Heal your shadows. Hurt people hurt people, so work on not being a hurt person.
  3. Your most important work is to get aligned with the energy that creates worlds and then let your actions ripple out to everything and everyone from that place of alignment. 
  4. You are a unique expression of that divine energy that runs through everyone. Don’t be afraid to let your light shine. Claim your place in the world. 
  5. Every moment is a chance to start anew. Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Forgive me, please.
  6. Lead with compassion. If that is difficult, consider this possibility: everyone (including yourself) is doing the best they can given the circumstances,  conditioning and resources at their disposal. 
  7. Acceptance is the answer to all your problems today. 
  8. Stay where your feet are. This present moment is precious. If staying aware of the present moment seems impossible, practice mindfulness meditation. It will help. I promise. 
  9. The Universe is always conspiring for your benefit. 
  10. There IS enough. 
  11. We are all ONE.
  12. Love is all there is at the end of the day. Choose Love. How do you do that? Appreciate everything and everyone. Appreciation and Love are the same vibration. If you are loving someone, you are appreciating them….not judging them and not fixing them. 

Wishing you a life aligned with your truth and allowing your inner light to shine brightly!

Before I go, I am praying this is really not my last day on this beautiful earth. I have some phone calls to make. I have a book to write. I have some scrapbooks to fill. I have people to see. I have chocolate ice cream to sample. I have many more moments to be enjoyed….Broadway, Cape Cod, Italy, future grandchildren…one can only hope!


Jeanette (MOM)

Happy Mother’s Day!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Holidays are touchstones in our lives which cause us to reflect and celebrate. As another Mother’s Day rolls around, I am doing my fair share of reflecting and feeling. Motherhood was my biggest aspiration in life. This aspiration was not fulfilled just by the act of giving birth. Childbirth is certainly an awesome miracle. However, my aspiration to become a mother was grounded in the anticipation of the mother-child relationship and how that connection was going to shape my life and give it meaning. Before I became a mother, I thought that connection was going to be easy breezy. Once I became a mother and experienced the exhaustion of being devoted to another person’s wellbeing 24/7, I realized how naive my expectations were. Still, I persevered as best I could with the tools I had. Today, my feelings consist of gratitude for being a mother, sorrow for missed opportunities, self-compassion for falling short at times, and immense love for my children. I am feeling deep compassion for all mothers. I have witnessed a lot of parental struggle and angst recently. As one woman stated this week “We are only as happy as our least happy child”,  I pondered the truth contained in these words. I think there is something universal in this idea and at the same time, I think we can create space for a different possibility, the possibility that we can remain anchored even when our children are being tossed around in the waves of life. It is something I have been intentionally working on. My intention is to stay neutral so that I can be a container for whatever my children show up with. Mind you, I certainly have not arrived at this serene place where I stay completely calm and neutral when my children are struggling, at least not right away. I go to the familiar place of fear and then remember to BREATHE and then I remind myself that the UNIVERSE is always conspiring for our benefit and that includes my children. And then I sigh, the sigh of a mother, the sigh that lets go and doubts and hopes and lets go again, before arriving at a place of acceptance….a place of equanimity….before arriving home, anchored and knowing all is well.

The gift I wish to give all mothers again this year, including myself, is the gift of loving kindness. Loving kindness meditation is one of my favorite practices. It is a meditation where we send warmth and kindness to others and to one’s self. It is a beautiful way of cultivating compassion. It is also the antidote to fear. But, don’t take my word for it. Try if for yourself.  In this meditation, I sit comfortably, close my eyes and place my hand over my heart. I first send loving kindness to myself, because first things first. Next, I bring a particular person or group of people to mind and send them loving kindness. If a child of mine is going through something difficult, I make sure I am sending them these wishes. I do this by repeating 5 phrases silently. Here are the set of phrases I mentally direct to the person(s) I am thinking about:

           May you be well, healthy and strong.

           May you be happy.

           May you experience peace.

           May you feel safe and secure.

           May you feel loved and supported.

 And at the end, I visualize all the loving kindness that I sent out to others as coming back to me and I repeat the 5 phrases for myself, once again. I do this part because I believe that whatever you send out in the world comes back to us. Yes, it is a kind of boomerang, the Law of Attraction in action.

This year for Mother’s Day, my loving kindness meditation is directed to ALL mothers…to mothers who try their best yet never feel good enough, to mothers who lost a child, to mothers who are estranged from a child, to mothers who have a child in prison or rehab, to mothers who have given their child up for adoption, to the mothers who have adopted those children, to mothers who never saw the face of their child, to mothers who are mothers and fathers, to mothers of four-legged children, to mothers who feel isolated, to mothers who wish they could have 5 minutes alone, to mothers who feel they messed up and still don’t know what the right thing would have been, to mothers who scream at their children and then feel guilty, to mothers who spoil their children and then feel guilty, to mothers of addicts, to mothers of children who are mentally ill, to mothers who work outside the home and wish they were home more, to stay-at-home mothers who have lost their identity, to mothers who are no longer with us physically, to mothers that drag their tired bodies out of bed to do the next right thing for their child, day after day after day, for ALL mothers…mothers who are joyous today and mothers who suffer today, and especially to MY mother, who loves me still with every beat of her heart.

There is no curriculum for being a mother. It is personal, between mother and child. Motherhood is sacred and tough and the biggest honor in the world. It is joyful and sorrowful and never carefree. If we allow it, our children can be our best teachers. They mirror what needs to be healed within us. They are not our trophies. They are our blessings, masterpieces to be discovered….together. I have been and continue to be taught well by the four amazing humans that carved out motherhood for me: John, Katie, Kevin and Sarah.

If you are a mother, send yourself some loving kindness today….and know I have already sent some your way.

Happy Mother’s Day!


The Anguish and Joy of Parenting

The Anguish and Joy of Parenting

In any given day,  I experience the highs and lows of being a mother of four children.  The lows come in the form of heartache, worry and fear and the highs are felt in the happiness I feel as I witness my kids experience the joys of life. The highs are also generated from just appreciating them exactly as they are.  I know when I am worrying about them, and I do from time to time, I am not loving them. Worry and Love cannot exist in the same space at the same time. When I am worrying, I am not trusting in their journey. I am not giving them the benefit of the doubt. I want to fix them. But they are not broken and I know that. Deep inside, I know that. My higher self knows that. My gut knows that. However, I am not always seeing the world from this wise, elevated place. When the lens I see my children with is clouded by fear,  my thoughts go to the worst case scenario. I become critical of them and myself. But, here is the good news! Through my mindfulness practice, I can stop myself….stop the runaway train of doom-and-gloom thoughts, stop myself before I open my big fat mouth and say something I don’t want to say, stop myself before I start lecturing, nagging, and projecting. Sometimes, I can stop myself. And sometimes, I am aware I should stop myself, but I don’t. I am a work in progress, after all. And so is every other parent. We are never going to arrive at some high place where we wipe the dust off and say, “We’re done, now THAT was easy.” Hell, no! This parenting thing is damn hard, and amazingly wonderful, and pushes us to become the best selves we can be. And even when we are doing our best, we are going to question ourselves if we could have done better. And that is our cue to be kind to ourselves, to be our own best friend, to give ourselves a freaking break. And that process of leaning into our own anguish with kindness is what builds our resilience to wake up the next morning and drag our tired butt out of bed and do it again. My intention today is to stay neutral about any outcomes for my kids. Hope and fear both exist in the future and are attached to a certain outcome. “I hope my kid gets into a top college” is just the inverse of “I am afraid that my kid won’t get into a top college”. Instead, we can stay where our feet are and empower our kids to do the same. In the present moment, our best selves have the opportunity to emerge. There is such freedom in focusing on the present moment and doing our best work and letting go of any attachment to a certain outcome. Today, I salute all my fellow parents in your quest to be your best self. I wish you less worry and more joy and freedom. And so that I practice what I teach, I wish the same for myself!